Date: 23 January 2023 Author: Grzegorz Kuczyński

South Africa, Russia’s Biggest African Ally

Due to its location and its role in African politics, let aside from its membership in the BRICS group, South Africa is a valuable partner for Moscow. The country’s ruling party, the African National Congress, is following a policy that favors Russia, which matters now as Russia continues to shell Ukraine.

SOURCE: Talks with President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa • President of Russia (

South Africa’s military announced that it plans to hold joint training exercises off its coast next month with Russia and China on February 17–27. The drills are being called “Operation Mosi,” which means smoke. It said the exercises would take place in the port cities of Durban and Richards Bay, some 180 km north. The scenario involves artillery weapons and air defense systems. The next month’s exercise will involve two Russian vessels. However, the South African army said this is the second joint drill it is holding with Russia and China, the first being in November 2019 in Cape Town, close to the Cape of Good Hope. South Africa’s reluctance to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its decision to advance a pro-Russian agenda is one thing, but joint military drills as Russia continues to bomb Ukraine is a drastic step. This is a serious cause for concern. The naval drill was questioned by South Africa’s biggest opposition party. Kobus Marais, shadow defense minister for the opposition party, Democratic Alliance, has questioned the motivations for going through with the plan, saying the arrangement will give the impression that South Africa is not only “neutral but being biased to one side.” “Clearly it can alienate us from other important trade partners, the west,” he added. The opposition has condemned joint naval exercises between South Africa and Russia. The US, Germany, Japan, and the UK are South Africa’s most important trading partners, while Russia is not even in the top 15. South Africa will use its role as the 2023 chair of the BRICS grouping of nations to advance the interest of Africa as a whole, according to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, notorious for his pro-Russian sympathies. South Africa is also using it to advance the interest of Russia. South Africa’s governing party––the African National Congress, or ANC––is seeking to fine-tune its policies and admit new members to the bloc in 2023. The party has criticized NATO states over their support of Ukraine. The draft document suggested that South Africa should strengthen relations with Cuba and Venezuela and called for the lifting of “punitive and violent sanctions” against them as well as Iran, Syria, and Zimbabwe. The ANC is also in favor of a referendum to reunite the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. In short, this is a policy that favors Russia while despising the West.

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